Page:Abroad with Mark Twain and Eugene Field.djvu/183

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


MARK SHEDS LIGHT ON ENGLISH HISTORY

We had set out to look at the rich collections of jewels, curiosities and "other loot" (Mark's description) hoarded by the (late) Hapsburgs in the immense pile called Hofburg, when the author of "Joan of Arc," then in the making, switched me off to another room.

"Let's go and dig out the Witch Hammer," he said. "Wonder whether they have a new edition at the Imperial Library."

I forget now which edition of that murderous book we examined, but I do remember some of the figures we jotted down at the librarian's suggestion. The Witch Hammer, that is, a voluminous "treatise for discovering, torturing, maiming and burning witches," was first published, we learned, in 1487, and twenty-eight editions were put through the press during the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Later Mark listened to my reading from the Latin text with so stern a mien I suggested that he looked like a Grand Inquisitor.

"I pity your ignorance," he drawled, "Troquemada and the rest didn't think of being unhappy re those auto-da-fes, for every witch-fire lit by their orders meant a warm jingle in their own pockets. When they tortured an accused person, the cost of the proceedings was collected by the sheriff, ditto when they burned some old lady, or a child maybe—it